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What the Bible says and means about homosexuality

A very brief glance at minor passages
that appear to discuss homosexuality

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Minor passages:

There are about 20 bible passages that have been interpreted as involving homosexual behavior. Of these, seven are mentioned most often and are commonly referred to as "clobber" passages.

The remainder, are listed below. They are minor, less often quoted, passages that may or may not refer to homosexual behavior. Theologians have interpreted them both ways.

The descriptions are necessarily over-simplified. They do not cover the full range of conservative/progressive beliefs. However, you may well find the beliefs that you have been taught in one of these columns:

Location Typical interpretation by religious conservatives Typical interpretation by religious progressives & secularists
Genesis 1:28
"Be fruitful and multiply"
God encourages sexual relationships, and childbearing, but only if they involve one-man married to one woman. God approves of both opposite-sex and same-sex committed relationships. He urges couples to have or adopt children. (Note 1)
Genesis 2:18 "It is not good for the man to be alone" God creates humans for marriage and intends for all men to choose one wife. God intends heterosexuals to form a loving relationship with a person of the opposite sex. For homosexuals this involves a person of the same sex.
Genesis 2:23-24 "A man leaves ..." God created marriage only between one man and one women. God approves of opposite-sex marriage as the most common, but not the only type.
Genesis 9:20-29 Ham and Noah No consensus on the reason for Ham's punishment. No consensus on the reason for Ham's punishment.
Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24, 15:12 & 22:46; 2 Kings 23:7 Prostitutes & sodomites Translations differ: The King James Version (KJV) calls for exile of homosexuals from Israel. The New International Version (NIV) calls for the exile of all shrine prostitutes. Hebrew word "Qadesh" is mistranslated as "sodomite" in the KJV. God actually condemns ritual sex in temples. These verses are unrelated to modern-day homosexuality.
Judges 19:14-29 A Levite and his concubine God condemns both homosexual behavior, & the rape of women. God condemns rape, whether the victim is female or male.
Matthew 8:5-13 Centurion's son Jesus cured the son of a centurion. The passage is unclear whether the boy was the centurion's son or his sex slave.
Matthew 19:4-5 "created them male and female" God approves of marriage only between one man and one women. God approves of opposite-sex marriage as the most common, but not the only type.
Matthew 19:10-12 Eunuchs Does not refer to homosexuals. May possibly refer to homosexuals.
John 3:16 "Whoever believes" When homosexuals are saved, they no longer engage in homosexual behavior. Everyone follows Jesus' teachings, whether a homosexual or heterosexual, whether sexually active or not, will have eternal life in Heaven.


  1. Back in the very early years of the 21st century, many religiously and socially conservative individuals and groups strongly believed that same-sex marriage was unacceptable because the purpose of marriage is procreation and only opposite-sex couples can have children. This was shown to be false when many lesbians started families via artificial insemination in what has been referred to as the lesbian baby boom. Now, these same conservative groups are opposed to same-sex marriage because of the children that these marriages produce; many conservatives feel that the children will be hurt by the lack of a mother or father as a role model.

    Now, everyone appears to realize that both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples can have children:
    bullet Opposite-sex couples via intercourse, or artificial insemination if they are infertile.
    bullet Same-sex couples via artificial insemination.

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Summary of the minor passages:

bullet To many -- not all -- conservative members of religions that revere the Bible -- the Baha'i faith, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism -- these passages:
bullet Specify God's will that men marry, but only to one woman.
bullet Condemn homosexual behavior.
bullet State that salvation is available to all who repent of their sins and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. Homosexuals no longer engage in same-sex behavior after they are truly saved.
bullet To many -- not all -- liberal/progressive believers, the Bible is silent on loving, consensual same-sex sexual behavior. These particular passages:
bullet Specify opposite-sex marriage as the most common type of loving, committed relationship, but not the only type.
bullet Condemn ritual sex in Pagan temples, whether by males or females.
bullet Specify that God condemns rape, whether it victimizes men or women.
bullet Say that eternal life is open to all.

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Copyright 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2009-FEB-14, Valentine's day
Latest update: 2009-JUL-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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